February 12, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

 As farmers gain awareness in the importance of proper handling of animal waste and the need for nutrient management plans, certified specialists are being trained to assist their needs.

A recent training at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton included participants from in and out of state in both the public and private sector who are seeking to become a certified specialist.

David Stipes, state agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) said his agency has been involved in training its employees as well as some county Extension agents across the state to do nutrient management plans.

“We’ve recently begun training people in the private sector – those who work for farm supply companies, private crop consultants and others who are out there on farms everyday working with a lot of the producers,’’ Stipes said.  “We are training them on the science behind nutrient management and how to develop a plan according to NRCS standards. We are also educating people about certain laws and regulations that apply to animal manure management, storage and land application.”

It is not required to have a certified specialist develop a plan as long as it is carried out using NRCS standards. The certification means the specialists have completed NRCS and other course work in addition to basic industry skills, he said. 

“As time goes on, there may be changes in regulations and rules that dictate that the work be performed by a certified person,” he said. “So we feel like we are growing into the process.”

“The nutrient management training we conduct is primarily for the land application of animal waste,” said Monroe Rasnake, a livestock waste management specialist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

“It takes into account the type of manure, nutrient content in that manure, crop that will be produced and nutrient needs of that crop and matches those nutrients in the manure with the nutrient needs of the crop,” he said. “They go on a field-by-field basis ending up with a plan that will show the farmer how much manure they have and what fields they should use it on to get the best results. The primary concern is to provide what the crop needs but to apply it in such a way as to not degrade water quality."

Nutrient management plans are required by the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act and by NRCS for participation in federal programs. Large operations, as defined under the federal confined animal feeding operation regulations, will need a plan as part of their permit process.

The Nutrient Management Task Force, consisting of UK College of Agriculture, NRCS, Kentucky Division of Water, Kentucky Division of Conservation and Kentucky Department of Agriculture, conducts the training, Rasnake said. A U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant helps support this professional development training.

“Right now about six non-NRCS people are certified and we’d like to have at least a couple dozen,” he said.

While it is not required to be a certified specialist in order for someone to assist farmers in developing a nutrient management plan, it is something that would add to their credibility, Rasnake said.

“A certified plan is important for the farmer to possess during the review process of applying for a permit,” he said. “A certified specialist provides credibility for the farmer in developing and approving the nutrient management plan.”

During the recent workshop, the first private sector certified nutrient management specialists in Kentucky were recognized.

“It’s going to be necessary for farmers to have these plans and maybe it would make us more valuable as a company to provide that service,” said Stephen Stallons, of Agri-Chem Inc. “I don’t think it will apply to every farmer, but there are some in our area that are using manures.”


Monroe Rasnake, 270-365-7541, ext. 206